Does My Landlord Have To Fix My Broken Dishwasher?

Dave’s at SF Appeal to answer your questions every Wednesday, so send them to him at tenant@sfappeal.com, here’s what to make sure to include in your letter.

My roommate and I have been living in our Victorian flat for 2.5 years. It was built in 1900, has 3 units, and all are owned privately by the same woman. She installed new appliances a couple years before we moved in, but we are well equipped with a dishwasher and a washer and dryer.

Our dishwasher recently stopped working and when I reached out to her to see if someone could come take a look, she said that it was our responsibility to pay for repairs. I asked about a warranty for the dishwasher or if there was repair history, and she said no. I don’t think we should have to pay for repairs when we don’t technically own the dishwasher, and we would practically pay for her updates since we wouldn’t take it with us when we move out. But at the same time, I know that not all apartments in the city come with dishwashers, as they are considered more of a “luxury item.”

Do you have any advice?

When you initially rent an apartment, any amenities that come with the apartment are factors that determine the unit’s initial value. For example, a top-floor apartment with a view may be more expensive than an apartment in the same building without a view. Amenities and services are factors that prospective tenants use to make their decision to rent.

A dishwasher is a housing service provided as part of your initial rent. Who knows, you may have decided to rent the apartment specifically because it had a dishwasher. You are paying a portion of your rent, albeit a small one, for working dishwasher and it is the landlord’s responsibility to repair the dishwasher when it breaks.

Your tenancy is governed by the San Francisco Rent Ordinance. Rent Ordinance §37.2(g) defines housing services:

“Services provided by the landlord connected with the use or occupancy of a rental unit including, but not limited to: quiet enjoyment of the premises, without harassment by the landlord as provided in Section 37.10B; repairs; replacement; maintenance; painting; light; heat; water; elevator service; laundry facilities and privileges; janitor service; refuse removal; furnishings; telephone; parking; rights permitted the tenant by agreement[…]”

Take a look at your lease. Hopefully the dishwasher is specifically mentioned as a service provided by the landlord, but even if it is not, you should not be deterred.

You should write the landlord a letter explaining that your dishwasher need to be repaired and point out that you will file a petition for a decrease in services with the Rent Board to reduce your rent accordingly until the repairs are made. Give the landlord a date certain to repair. If she refuses or fails to do so, file the petition.

Is this a luxury problem? Sure, in that the ceiling isn’t caving in and it will soon be raining in your kitchen. Nevertheless, your landlord is in breach of the lease. You are not receiving the services that you paid for and it’s worth making the landlord perform her obligation under the contract.

Crow & Rose's legal practice emphasizes eviction defense, wrongful eviction and other landlord tenant and real property matters.

2 Responses to Does My Landlord Have To Fix My Broken Dishwasher?

  1. My dishwasher has been a struggle since I moved in. At first it was filled with water, something had prevented it from draining for months. As a result of that, it was covered in mold. I cleaned it about six times before it was usable again. After three months, it’s stopped working completely, and I need to get it fixed, or replaced. Is it generally worth it to fix a dishwasher, or is that something you just replace when it breaks down?

  2. We have been living in our house that we rent for 18 months. Our dishwasher stopped working about 5 months in. So our dishwasher has not worked for 13 months. We brought it to her attention and she informed us that when we get caught up on rent which at the time we owed $400, that she will fix it then. Is there anything I can do as far as back charge her for us doing dishes by hand, when our place came with a working dishwasher originally. We pay $1200 per month in rent and feel we are entitled to pay less or charge her for our loss of time doing dishes for over a year. Am I wrong or is she?. What can be done?

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